Thursday, March 23, 2017

Conflicts of Interest?

Six Rules for Presidents

Barry Ritholz has reprinted Peter Drucker's "Six Rules for Presidents". 

• What Needs to be Done? Is the first thing the President must ask. He must not stubbornly do what he wants to do, even if it was the focus of his campaign. 
• Concentrate, Don’t Splinter Yourself …unless a President makes the risky and controversial choice of only one, he will achieve nothing
 • Don’t Bet on a Sure Thing ….Roosevelt had every reason to believe that his plan to “pack” the Supreme Court….would be a sure thing. It immediately blew up in is face – so much so that he never regained control of Congress
 • An Effective President does not Micromanage… the tasks that a President must do himself are already well beyond what any but the best organized and most energetic person can possibly accomplish
 • A President has no Friends in the Administration …they are always tempted to abuse their position as a friend and the power that comes with it • Sixth rule? Harry Truman advised JFK: “Once you’re elected, stop campaigning.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Commenting on the House Committee on Russian Influence on U.S. Politics

Panda Diplomacy

How can Congress cut the EPA and Energy Dept. budgets?

An analysis by Bloomberg shows that spending related to the environment in fiscal 2016 was almost equally divided between congressional districts represented by either party.  The money was significant reaching $5.9 billion; South Carolina topped the list at $804 million. Will Congressmen vote for these cuts in their districts?

Then, you have the impact on jobs. In 2016, 4,462 vendors got government contracts related to the environment, climate, sustainability or similar fields. Twenty-five publicly traded companies earned more than $10 million each from those contracts. United Technologies Corp., based in Connecticut, earned $172 million. Again, who would vote for a budget which counts these companies out?

Monday, March 20, 2017

How much does toilet paper cost in China?

It must be fairly expensive as, at a park in Beijing, they are using toilet paper dispensers with facial recognition to stop visitors from taking too much paper. Machines at the park scan visitors' faces before dispensing a fixed length strip of paper about 24 x 27.5 inches to each person. 

More paper is not dispensed to the same person until after nine minutes have passed. "If we encounter guests who have diarrhea or any other situation in which they urgently require toilet paper, then our staff on the ground will directly provide the toilet paper," a park spokesman said.

Dark matter is invisible

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A truly skinny budget

Ranking countries on happiness



We rank 14th

Oliver on the Skinny Budget

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Stupid Wall

ProPublica has a few numbers relative to Trump's Wall. The first budget number is $2.6 billion. However, this amount is not for a new wall; it will go to build a bunch of smaller walls and patch holes in the assortment of fences that now exist. The cost of the wall per se is now estimated at $21 billion.

Some other things that the $2.1 billion could be used for:
  • To fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting plus the $231 million given to the country’s libraries and museums plus the $366 million that goes to legal help for the poor. These total less than $1 billion.
  • The federal government could increase the annual combined spending on the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities by 900 percent or so and still not get to the $2.6 billion. 
  • The $2.6 billion is more than twice the annual costs of 21st Century Community Learning Centers created across the country to fund programs run before and after school and throughout the summer. You could actually throw in the $190 million spent on teaching students with disabilities and limited English proficiency and still not match the wall costs.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wall Street Bonuses

The Institute for Policy Studies looked at the bonuses paid to Wall Streeters for 2016. Some conclusions:
The total bonus pool for 177,000 Wall Street employees was 1.6 times the combined annual earnings of all 1,075,000 U.S. full-time minimum wage workers. 
The average Wall Street bonus increased by 1 percent last year to $138,210. Since 1985, the nominal value of the average Wall Street bonus has increased 890 percent, whereas the minimum wage has risen only 116 percent.
The 2016 bonus pool held enough dollars to lift the pay of any one of these groups of low-wage workers up to $15 per hour:
  • all of the country’s 3.1 million restaurant servers and bartenders, 
  • all 1.7 million home health and personal care aides, or 
  • all 3.2 million fast food preparation and serving workers.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR) has just issued its latest High-Risk List, which spells out the greatest threats to the ultimate success of our more than 15-year-long U.S.-funded reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. That investment is now more than $115 billion and will continue at around $5billion a year until 2020. It is the largest expenditure to rebuild a single country in our nation’s history. It has been used to train Afghan security forces, stand up the Afghan government, and develop the local economy. But it is not doing well. This especially true with regard to the capabilities of the Afghan security forces and government corruption.

Other high risk areas are Sustainability, On-Budget Support, Counternarcotics, Contract Management, Oversight and Strategy and Planning.

The important people at colleges in America...

are not professors. They're coaches of sports. Sure, we know that some college football or basketball coaches make big bucks. But now, as college athletics generates more money, you find situation such as:
From 2006 to 2016, pay for Kentucky’s track and field coach climbed from $108,000 to $429,000 (298%); men’s tennis coach pay jumped from $122,000 to $230,000; and gymnastics coach pay rose from $112,000 to $252,000. Every coach made more than the school’s average full professor’s salary of $121,000. The rifle coach made $133,000; not bad for what is really a minor sport.
At the University of Kansas, men’s golf coach pay jumped from $84,000 to $201,000 over the past decade. At the University of Virginia, pay for the women’s volleyball coach rose from $94,000 to $221,000. And at West Virginia University, men’s soccer coach pay jumped from $66,000 to $188,000. 
Kentucky really spends money on athletics. It is building a professional-quality stadium is needed to lure top recruits. The stadium will cost only $49 million baseball stadium and will feature artificial turf, permanent seating for 2,500 and the ability to offer expanded seating for up to 7,000. The new stadium will be part of an “athlete’s village” Kentucky is building that includes a $45 million football training complex (opened in 2016), a new $9.5 million softball stadium (opened in 2013), and a new $7.7 million soccer stadium (opened in 2014).